Luigi Datome’s Farewell: Ending on a High Note
Luigi Datome, known affectionately as Gigi, has consistently sidestepped discussions regarding the conclusion of his illustrious basketball career throughout the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. Yet, the inevitable is now just two days away – his final moment wearing the Italy jersey. It’s the last game with Italy, the last game of his remarkable career, the last dance.
True to his humble nature, Gigi Datome keeps the focus on the team’s performance rather than dwelling on his farewell. “I want to finish strong and in the best way possible. I want to talk about the team, and we must finish on a good note – not for the result but for the face that we show. And I am sure we are going to do the same as we did today,” Datome emphasized following Italy’s 87-82 loss to Latvia in the Classification 5-8.
When probed again about his last dance in the Italia jersey, Datome responded with characteristic modesty: “I try to treat every game as if it’s the last one. I will just try my best as always. It’s the best way to finish.”
The 35-year-old Datome had declared before the World Cup that he would retire after the tournament, a decision that marked the culmination of his two-decade-long journey representing Italy. His international career began in 2003 at the FIBA U16 European Championship, leading to appearances in two FIBA U18 European Championships and two FIBA U20 European Championships.
Datome’s progression continued as he joined the senior team in 2007 at the FIBA EuroBasket, playing a pivotal role at seven EuroBaskets, the 2019 and 2023 World Cups, and the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
When asked about his most cherished memory with the Italian team, Datome humbly responded, “Every day is a favorite memory with this group of guys.”
His performance in Manila illustrated that he still possesses the ability to contribute significantly to a team’s success. Averaging 8.7 points over seven games, he ranked fifth in scoring for Italy. One of the tournament’s standout moments was Datome’s remarkable display, scoring 10 points within 100 seconds, which enabled Italy to overcome a 16-point deficit and stun Serbia, leading them to the Quarter-Finals for the first time in 25 years. He also achieved his World Cup-high of 20 points against Latvia.
Datome’s farewell to basketball will take place on Saturday when Italy competes against the losers Slovenia and Lithuania for seventh place. The team is determined to provide Gigi with a fitting send-off.
“We have to finish strong because we deserve to finish strong. Also, for our captain Gigi because he deserves that we play strong,” stated Gabriele Procida, one of Italy’s promising young talents.
Head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco expressed, “We are focused on the last game of Gigi. Gigi scored 20 points tonight (laughs). He’s unique.”
Attempting to define Gigi Datome’s uniqueness, Pozzecco remarked, “It’s so tough to explain. Unique is something that represents him. But then you want to explain why he is unique. First of all, you cannot have an example, and you cannot compare him to anyone else. It’s so hard to explain why he’s unique. He’s unique because he’s unique.”
Pozzecco is confident that Italy will make Datome proud in his final game, which will be his 203rd appearance for his country. “They will finish well because they want to give Gigi what he deserves,” he affirmed.
As Gigi Datome prepares to bid adieu to the basketball court, he believes in the bright future of Italian basketball. “The core is there. For sure some young players will step up. Some players will leave, and it’s a good opportunity for the young players and the next generation. We will be there.”
However, Italia will have the privilege of being there with Gigi only one more time.